Runaway- Part I of Runner
She rolled over, her hand blindly seeking the button to make it stop, she had to make it stop, it was so loud, and she was so tired. Finally, her fingers found the snooze button. The next nine minutes were hers. She rolled over and raised her hand as if she were about to gently caress his face lying next to her when her hand and thoughts stopped in seeming midair. She remembered their disagreement from the night before and how he shut her down without a second thought to her feelings. Runner sighed deeply as she laid her hand back down on the bed between them. He was such a good man, but gawd, he can be such an asshole.
The smell of coffee disturbed her thoughts, swinging her legs to the floor, she turned the alarm off and quietly made her way downstairs to the custom, gourmet kitchen. Black granite flicked with gold fleck, stainless steel, and mirrored surfaces. Their home was a Modern Mid-Century Tri-Level straight out of the “Brady Bunch,” with the kitchen, great room, and dining room on the main level. A short flight of stairs past the dining room led to her studio office, upstairs four bedrooms, where her husband RJ, her daughter Alex and his son Lip slept peacefully.
Three cats and the dog followed her down the stairs as if she were the pied piper of pet food. As she distributed kibble, she did a mental inventory of what needed to be cleaned again before she left for work. She stopped asking for help. For a while, even she didn’t give a shit, depression will do that to a girl. Now she made her way through her chores as if she were on autopilot.
“I’m going to write a book,” she thought to herself, “’How to Live Like a Human and Not an Asshole Animal,’ by Runner Smith, has a nice ring to it.”
She finished her coffee, rinsed the cup, and put it in the dishwasher, knowing she would come home to a sink full of dishes despite an open machine. She was exhausted just thinking about it. She climbed the stairs, heading to the shower to start yet another day, passing pictures of herself climbing mountains, repelling, traveling. Before she met RJ, before the kids moved back in with them, she was always on the road. Without so much as a glance, she passed by it all.
RJ was still asleep when she grabbed her bag, ready to head out the door. She gave him a gentle kiss and closed the master door behind her. In the garage, she grabbed her leather and duckwalked the Pan out of the garage and down the hill. Not quite six in the morning, she didn’t want to wake up the neighborhood just because she had to go to work. On the street, she kicked the old ’58 Panhead to life with a roar.
In the early predawn light, the road was mostly empty as she made her way to Dunkin for coffee and to watch the sunrise over Dead River. At 39*, It was a chilly morning by anyone’s standards, let alone Florida. Her Classic Exelement Leather Jacket from Stop 6 Highway Couture had a zip out lining, ensuring she was never too warm or too cold and her Milwaukee Rider’s Chiara Boots not only looked totally sexy, but kept her feet warm and dry. She scrolled Stop6.net as she waited for her coffee, filling her shopping cart with KatNMo Jewelry, Platinum Plush Jeans and Vocal Apparel tops.
She thanked the barista for her order, put her coffee in the cup holder knowing it would be ice cold by the time she made it to the river and was on her way. True to her expectations, the short ride to the river had chilled her coffee significantly, but she drank it anyway. The night before had left her feeling groggy and out of sorts with her life. She knew what she wanted, but what she wanted and what he wanted were two different things.
She sipped her coffee from the seat of Panny McPanhead and watched the sunrise over the river, wondering where to go from here. It wasn’t something you can work around, like they do for her Celiac Disease, she thought to herself. It’s the gawddamn mundanity of cleaning, working, cleaning more, working more. All work and no play makes Runner a real bitch she thought laughingly as a tear rolled down her cheek. She was suffocating in the suburbs. He wants roots, she wants wings. How do you compromise that?
Downing the dregs of her coffee and wishing for more, she tossed the empty cup in the trash. Traffic filled the early morning highway, and, in the distance, she could hear his Roadking’s stereo as he made his own way to work and smiled at the thought of him. She still gets butterflies, at fifty-three years old, she still gets butterflies when she thinks about him. No one has ever made her feel the way he does and the war in her heart rages. Time is limited, the voice of evil truths whispers in her ear as she revs Panny to drown it out.
Two years ago, Runner was diagnosed with a rare, fatal disease. Four years of near-death experiences and lack of proper treatment, at barely 100 lbs., Runner listened as the doctors advised her against ever eating again, it felt like. They will tell you Crohn’s Disease is not fatal, and it isn’t. It’s the bastards it brings to the party that will kill you. She was co-morbidity with Celiac Disease and a rare condition in adults known as Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, more horrible than it sounds, CVS did more than damage her body. It killed her self-esteem and ravaged her confidence.
In partial remission for nearly a year, Runner was ready to start living her old life again. Unfortunately for her, the rest of the world was not willing to cooperate. C19 swept the planet, keeping people locked up in their houses for fear of catching the virus. An old Tracy Chapman song played in her head, “The stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed.” She didn’t want to get back in bed.
She slowed as she came to the turn for her office, a job is a job is a job, she thought, wondering if she could afford to go truant for the day. It was Friday and the sun was out in the Sunshine State. She couldn’t, she decided. They were saving for yet another project, new floors downstairs. She turned into the parking lot and backed into her space, the lone vehicle, she was an hour early.
Another mental list of all the things at work she needed to do, stamp this, file that. Die of boredom. Is this really what she wanted for what time she has left?
“Fuuuuuck.” She kicked the Pan into gear and tore out of the parking lot, heading north. She wondered if anyone would even notice she was gone, where the hell she thought she was going and exactly what the fuck was wrong with her, she was fifty-three, she couldn’t just run away from home, could she?
Her heart raced with Panny’s motor; the wind and her thoughts all she knew as she weaved in and out of morning traffic on US 441. A quaint little lakeside town when she moved here nine years ago to live in RJ’s house with the Gourmet Kitchen had become a bedroom community of Orlando and an outpost of The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community. She twisted the throttle a little harder as an octogenarian weaved into her lane and narrowed her focus to the road.
Stopping only for gas, Runner rode like the devil herself was after her. She didn’t think about the why or how, the longer she rode, the less she thought at all. It was just her, the machine between her legs, and the wind. She barely remembered riding through Orlando as she made her way north to US 301, the road hypnotizing her, calming her, bringing her a sense of peace like she had nowhere else. The road was her true home and she had been homesick for so long.
She stopped for gas just over the Florida-Georgia line on US 17, almost wondering how she had come this far. The sun was beginning to set, and it was time to find somewhere to sleep and eat. Some dude, probably named Biff or Chad, in a Beamer stared at her as she pumped her gas. “That yer bike?” he asked with a southern drawl.
She presumed the fact that she rode up on the bike by herself would be a good indication of who the bike belonged to, but he did have Florida plates.
“Naw,” Runner came back with a drawl to match, “I stoled it from a big, mean biker and he’s right behind you, aimin’ his gun at me.” She kicked the Pan into gear as Chad gave a startled double take. “Dumbass, here’s your sign” she thought to herself. At least once a stop if she were by herself, some Biff or Chad would ask if that was her bike. Who the fuck do you think it belongs to, the Invisible Biker, for chrissake? Men.
She turned into a motel with a Mexican restaurant attached and checked in for the night, still on autopilot. If anyone had taken the time to ask if she knew what she was doing, she would have simply given a blank stare. Runner had no idea what she was doing, or why. She just knew she had to go. In her room, she stripped off her Classic Leather Jacket from Stop 6 and sat on the edge of the bed, staring at her phone. No messages, no calls. No one even noticed she was gone.